Children at risk for mental disorders see attention support breakdown in brain


A new study from Wayne State University's Division of Research has found that children who are at risk of mental disorders can experience communication breakdown in brain networks that support attention. The study finds that attention deficits are central to psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolar and are thought to precede the presentation of the illness(es).

The study, lead by Vaibhav Diwadkar, PhD, suggests that the brain network interactions between regions that support attention are dysfunctional in children and adolescents who are at genetic risk for developing schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The study uses complex image analytic methods focusing on how brain regions communicate.

Diwadkar and colleagues found that the estimated lifetime incidence of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder in groups studied is approximately 10-20 times what is generally observed.

"We believe that genetic risk may confer vulnerability for dysfunctional brain network communication. This abnormal network communication in turn might amplify risk for psychiatric illnesses. By identifying markers of network dysfunction we believe we can elucidate these mechanisms of risk. This knowledge may in turn increase focus on possible premeditative intervention strategies," Diwadkar said in a release after publication of the study.

The study, Dysfunction and dysconnection in cortical-striatal networks during sustained attention: genetic risk for schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and its impact on brain network function, was featured in the May issue of Frontiers in Psychiatry.

Findings indicate that brain networks supporting basic psychological functions such as attention do not communicate appropriately in young individuals at genetic risk for illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.


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